How do we get from the summer movie season to the blockbusters of the holidays? With a batch of serious dramas, a menu of Oscar bait, and horror movies galore.
We’ve also got visits from James Bond and the Peanuts gang. That’s right, the 1960s are not dead, thank you very much.
Autumn season 2015 offers a typical mix of the serious and the sure-fire. In the latter category, the sequels include a follow-up in the “Maze Runner” Young Adult franchise, another of Adam Sandler’s “Hotel Transylvania” cartoons, and the sixth (possibly the last?) installment of the “Paranormal Activity” series.
There’s also the umpteenth version of “Peter Pan,” a character who is probably ready to grow up by now.
The more serious fare is intriguing. In the real-life biography genre, Johnny Depp plays the gangster Whitey Bulger, and Michael Fassbender impersonates Apple mogul Steve Jobs. Meryl Streep, not to be outdone, plays a famed British suffragette. And yes, these are the kinds of turns that tend to get Oscar nominations.
Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg reunites with Tom Hanks for “Bridge of Spies,” also based on fact. It’s a Cold War tale that sounds like it might be a good old-fashioned spy yarn.
Will all of this be enough to get us to the arrival of 007 and Katniss Everdeen in November? We’ll see. At the very least, we’ll see some brainier fare than Hollywood’s summer flicks offered up.
Here, with dates always subject to change, is a look at some of the scheduled openings:
“The Visit.” If “Sixth Sense” maker M. Night Shyamalan seemed to lose his way in recent years, the hype on this paranormal outing is that he’s gone back to his roots. Sounds good, and the film looks spooky: when kids go to their grandparents’ house for a visit, things become very strange indeed.
“Perfect Guy.” A woman (Sanaa Lathan) meets a totally charming new man (Michael Ealy) and it all seems too good to be true. So, of course, it is — the set-up for this thriller promises creepy suspense along the way.
“Black Mass.” Johnny Depp is coming off some flat box-office of late, so he could use a prestige picture right about now. With thinned hair and freaky contact lenses, Depp is going whole-hog as the notorious mobster Whitey Bulger, and there’s quite a supporting cast on board: Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard.
“Everest.” The same mountaineering expedition that provided the page-turning fascination of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” is dramatized in this spectacle. Why? Because it’s there, of course. Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, and Sam Worthington lead the cast
“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials.” A sequel to the successful-enough 2014 “Maze Runner,” this installment tosses up a new set of obstacles for the teen heroes. They “wouldn’t last a minute in the Scorch,” so of course that’s where they go — a blistering post-apocalyptic desert with dangers aplenty.
“Captive.” An odd duck, this one: the woman-in-peril genre meets Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life” (literally: the book has a co-starring role in the trailer). Kate Mara and “Selma” star David Oyelowo co-star.
“Sleeping with Other People.” Rom-com twist: long-ago lovers Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie are too busy playing the field to realize they have a lot in common. Like the fact that they both prefer playing the field, I suppose.
“Hotel Transylvania 2.” Not many people noticed, but the ultra-silly 2012 original film made a bundle. So here’s another one, again with Adam Sandler doing the voice of Count Dracula, surrounded by his monster buddies and still beset with parenting woes. Mel Brooks has a voice cameo, surely a sign of hope.
“The Intern.” The new film from writer-director Nancy Meyers sounds like the weirdest twist on “The Devil Wears Prada” ever: Fashion editor Anne Hathaway gets more than she expected in her new intern, septuagenarian Robert De Niro. Expect some generational zingers — and maybe a nice change for De Niro?
“Sicario.” An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) gets in over her head when she’s assigned to the drug wars on the U.S.-Mexico border. This grim-sounding thriller features Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin; director Denis Villeneuve proved himself a fair hand with suspense in “Enemy” and “Prisoners.”
“The Walk.” Oscar-winner Robert Zemeckis, always a tinkerer with technology, has found a way to dramatize the notorious high-wire act by the daredevil Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). You may recall from the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire” that Petit blithely walked from one tower of the World Trade Center to the other, in 1974. (In IMAX for the first week of release.)
“The Martian.” Matt Damon plays an astronaut (a more trustworthy one than the guy he played in “Interstellar,” we hope) stranded on Mars. Director Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”) knows his way around a sci-fi epic, so expect some humongous sights from this one. Jessica Chastain co-stars.
“Mississippi Grind.” A pair of gamblers (Ryan Reynolds and super-intense Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn) team up to build a stake through dice joints in the South. Offbeat material, and Mendelsohn (a dynamic presence in “Animal Kingdom” and “Killing Them Softly”) is due for a breakout part.
“He Named Me Malala.” Malala is the Pakistani schoolgirl brutally attacked by the Taliban; “Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim tells her story in a film that seems likely to be one of the widest-seen documentaries of the season.
“Steve Jobs.” The CEO of Apple gets the full biopic treatment here, with Michael Fassbender as the alleged visionary, and Seth Rogen (inspired piece of casting) as computer brainiac Steve Wozniak. With Kate Winslet also in the cast, this one doesn’t lack for firepower, and if anybody can juice up a tale of nerds conquering the world, it’s “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle.
“Pan.” Another go-round with Peter Pan, yes, but this time it’s a prequel: What happened in Neverland when Peter arrived and before Hook lost his hand? Hugh Jackman provides the villainy in the form of Blackbeard; the director is Joe Wright, who did “Atonement.”
“Freeheld.” A couple must fight the legal system when Julianne Moore’s cop becomes terminally ill and wants to leave her police pension to domestic partner Ellen Page. Steve Carell and Michael Shannon have key supporting roles in this drama.
“Bridge of Spies.” The new Spielberg picture casts Tom Hanks as a lawyer called in to work on a delicate mission: The retrieval of American pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose plane crashed in the Soviet Union in 1960. Sounds like an ideal project for Spielberg and Hanks, and check out the screenplay credit: Joel and Ethan Coen.
“Crimson Peak.” A period spookfest: Mia Wasikowska plays a Victorian-era writer who falls in with two unnerving siblings (Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston) in their grand, creepy mansion. This gothic rave-up comes from director Guillermo del Toro, who should be in his element.
“Goosebumps.” R.L. Stine writes all those scary books for kids. Here, he (or a fictional author with his name) is played by Jack Black; but the real story is in the way his fictional creations get loose to terrorize the world.
“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.” Another one of these, in which (we assume) somebody has once again found something on video footage, with evidence that strongly suggests the departed are still around us.
“Burnt.” Bradley Cooper plays a talented chef trying to rebuild his life after hitting rock bottom. I will make a prediction that this film contains many shots of elaborately-prepared food.
“The Last Witch Hunter.” Vin Diesel plays an immortal being, which implies that those “Fast and Furious” movies might just go on forever. No, really, he’s a witchfinder general who’s been chasing demons through the centuries in this effects-heavy action picture. Elijah Wood co-stars.
“Rock the Kasbah.” Could be a good part for Bill Murray here: He plays a music manager who stumbles across a fresh young talent in Afghanistan. Veteran director Barry Levinson got an all-star cast (Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel) to support the glorious Mr. Murray, so let’s hope this one clicks.
“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.” Be prepared: The only thing standing between the walking dead and civilization is the know-how of three scouts. Tye Sheridan (the kid from “The Tree of Life”) leads the trio.
“Suffragette.” Some real-life figures fight for feminism in the 19th century, a period piece led by Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the aforementioned Meryl Streep.
“Spectre.” A lot of people seemed to like the previous 007 film, “Skyfall,” but some of us hope this James Bond picture is less psychological and more stylish. Daniel Craig returns to play Ian Fleming’s spy, with Christoph Waltz (oh goody!) as the villain. Sam Mendes returns to the director’s chair.
“The Peanuts Movie.” The great Charles Schulz comic strip comes to the big screen in an attempt to bring Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang to a new generation of consumers. It’ll have to be pretty good to match “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
“By the Sea.” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play a couple bickering by the French seaside in the 1970s. That’s going to be one good-looking argument. Jolie wrote and directed the movie, indicating her interest in re-locating behind the camera for good.
“The 33.” In Chile in 2010, a group of miners struggled to survive after a mine collapse. The incredible story gets dramatized in this awards contender, which boasts a big international cast and a knockout of an ending.
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.” Wait, they’re still making these? Yes, 2014’s “Mockingjay Part 1” was merely a place-holder in which Jennifer Lawrence and company mostly stood around wondering what to do next. But a big finish is promised for the futuristic Young Adult series, after which there’ll be some serious searching for the Next Big Thing.
Robert Horton reviews movies for The Herald and Seattle Weekly. Listen to his weekly podcast with Steve Scher, The Overlook Podcast, on iTunes or read his blog, The Crop Duster, at roberthorton.wordpress.com/. Follow him on Twitter @citizenhorton.